House Setup

Setting Up Utilities

As a new tenant, most likely you will be responsible for setting up your utilities. Phone, electricity, and natural gas may require hook-up fees. Brochures may be picked up at the Puget Sound Information Center in Wheelock Student Center. Utility bills will establish a credit record for you if they are registered in your name. Be sure to pay on time with checks that do not bounce. Record any utility deposits, so you remember to request refunds when you move out.


Tenants are responsible for disposing of garbage properly. In the city, garbage is collected weekly and recycling on a biweekly basis. Your landlord should know the schedule for pick-up of trash and recycling on your street.

The Tacoma Municipal Code (12.09.040, 12.09.060) requires that residents keep garbage containers. In apartments, studios, or any dwellings excluding houses, the landlord must provide garbage cans and arrangement for removal. In houses, landlords must furnish or make sure tenants have containers.

It is illegal to burn any garbage outdoors without a permit from the Fire Chief and the Municipal Code prohibits dumping garbage on any street, alley, or private property in the city. Violations of these provisions of the City Code are misdemeanors and can result in fines of between $100 and $1,000.

Saving Money and Energy

Living off-campus can be more expensive than anticipated when you add up rent, food, and transportation costs. Sometimes the hidden cost of utility payments (electricity, water, telephone, garbage) are most surprising. You can keep these costs down by turning off lights, not letting water run, and turning down heat when it is not necessary. Other tips:

  • Keep the thermostat set low (65 to 68); for every degree you turn down the thermostat, your bill will drop 2-5%.
  • When you're gone for long periods of time during the winter and spring, set your thermostat to 55 degrees; during warmer months, set it to 75 degrees or higher. Don't turn off your heat entirely when it's cold outside, because you could freeze your pipes.
  • Buy a low-flow shower head.
  • Lower hot water thermostat to 120 degrees.
  • Wash clothes in cold water when possible.

Renters Insurance

Thefts, Floods, Fires - Oh My!
An E-presentation on Renters Insurance

Tenants should consider purchasing renters insurance to protect themselves and their belongings. Parents' homeowner's insurance policy will not necessarily cover losses if you live outside the family home. If you live in a rental unit, your landlord's insurance should cover damages to the building structure itself, but such a policy does not cover personal belongings of tenants. Regardless of whether you live in a house, room, or apartment, replacing your possessions or defending yourself against a liability lawsuit can take a big financial and personal toll.

The renters insurance premium, just like any other insurance policy, will depend on a number of factors: where you live, your deductible, your insurance company, and if you need additional coverage. Most companies offer a discount for having "protective devices," such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and deadbolt locks.

One thing you want to compare when you shop for insurance is whether the company will cover "actual cash value" or "replacement cost." Actual cash value coverage will pay the worth of your property at the time it was damaged or stolen. Replacement cost coverage, on the other hand, will pay what it actually costs to replace the items you lost. Replacement cost coverage will cost you more in premiums, but it will also pay out more if you ever need to file a claim.

Make sure you let your agent know about any particularly valuable items you have. If you have some items that are unusually expensive, you may want to purchase a separate rider on your policy. Check with any insurance company for price quotes, and take time to shop around for the best deal.